I was recently asked by a caller why I was ‘so expensive’ when the kennels up the road can look after dogs for ‘half the price!’ I feel quite strongly about this and therefore thought I should record my views on this site – in case anyone would be interested to read them!!
My views are personal ones – they are based on our experience of a kennels environment. I will not name the kennels or comment on other local services or kennel provision. Ultimately, kennels serve a purpose and provide a service that many people want and make use of. I assume that not everyone has the same view or has had the same experience as us, as kennels continue to be used by many people every day. But using Kennels as opposed to home boarding is a choice – and is a choice that we choose not to take where our dogs are concerned. I am not in anyway implying any criticism to anyone who chooses Kennels – as with everything it’s ‘horses for courses’ – some things don’t suit everyone – it’s as simple as that!
Six years ago, myself and my husband went to Dublin for a weekend – well it wasn’t actually a full weekend – it was just over 24 hours really!! It was before we got Henry, so Maggie wasn’t quite a year old.
We dropped Maggie off with a very well known, reputable, clean kennels on the Saturday morning, and collected her on the Sunday afternoon. We’d paid for standard boarding for the time and had elected to pay for additional options for additional fees: additional for a walk, additional for a second walk, additional for a play, additional for someone to be with her for the play, and additional for a sofa rather than a hard bed. We could’ve paid for a TV, but she was used to a radio being on all the time, and they already had that, so that was ok. We thought all would be ok, and had no cause for concern. The staff were lovely and the establishment was well respected and seemed to meet our needs.
When we collected Maggie the next day to take her home she was extremely pleased to see us, but seemed very unhappy, very distressed, and also seemed to have a sore throat. She seemed nervous and distracted. She didn’t ‘speak’ to us for over one full week, and worst of all, she was quite ill – very, very worrying at the time.
It was horrendous, and in fact, I recently found some emails that my husband and I had exchanged at the time as we were backwards and forwards to the Vets as Maggie refused to eat and was really depressed and subdued. She underwent all kinds of blood tests and general tests as the Vet tried to determine what was wrong with her. Anyone knowing Labradors knows that loss of appetite is a pretty serious thing! Labradors simply live to eat!!! We had to carry her into the Vets as she refused to walk in there, and just seemed to give up on life.
The Vet finally determined that it was either a viral infection Maggie had picked up at the kennels, or severe stress from excessive barking and straining of her throat.
It was like she was punishing us initially and she just wanted to get back at us for leaving her – we had badly wronged her, but she was quite ill! It wasn’t until we spoke to other people who had their own experiences of kennels that we understood that actually, Maggie, in common with many other dogs, had been deeply distressed by her stay- other people had described similar experiences – we felt so guilty and so stupid for not anticipating how she would cope. We just hadn’t considered exactly what was going to happen. Maggie was used to a family environment. She was used to sleeping on our leather suite with her legs in the air – she was used to having us to herself, knowing that if she wanted a cuddle or some attention, that was exactly what we were there for! So we put her in a metal cage with a concrete floor, outside, with rows and rows of other cages, all filled with dogs all barking continously – all as distressed as Maggie!
Dogs going into kennels are not supervised at all times – as we discovered. Our experience was that the dogs are left in outside cages with concrete floors, with nothing familiar in their surroundings at all other than the toys or blankets etc that we provided. Their cage is amongst rows and rows of other cages, all filled with other dogs – not knowing why they’re there – where their families are, whether they’ll ever see them again – all very distressed dogs who spend the entire time barking and barking! The amount of distress felt by one dog is passed on to the other dogs – thereby magnifying the sense of loss – their feeling that they have been deserted. If they pee or soil in their cage, they’ll have to wait for one of the workers to come and sort it out – that might be in a few minutes – or it may not get checked on until tea time – possibly several hours away. There is no criticism or suggestion that dogs are in any way purposely neglected – not at all – but the staff have other duties to perform – many dogs to look after – possibly training classes to carry out etc. Maggie certainly was not at all happy having to live in this environment.
The Home boarding that I offer is ‘private’ – we have one dog, or two from the same household. They live in our house with us and our dogs as a family – a very calm and happy environment. They are with me all the time – except for when I have to take other dogs for a walk – but will come with me if possible. They (are supposed to!!!) sleep in their own beds (provided by the owner) – or on our leather suite – also with their legs in the air! They sleep in our kitchen and have full run of the downstairs of the house with our two labradors. We go for at least two walks during the day, and we play, and they sleep and they get treats, and they’re happy – all day! There’s a radio on most of the time, it’s warm, they get to watch TV with us in the evening! They can look out of the window and bark at the postman if they want to! They can go out and play in our garden which is totally secure and spans the front, side and back of the house! Plenty of room! We have treats! We have bones! We have conversation – all the time! We have cuddles and we have fun!
How can that compare or compete with a kennels.
As I said, it’s ‘horses for courses’ and I’m not criticising or judging anyone who uses kennels or anyone who offers a kennels service. Some kennels will operate in the way I have described – as stated, that’s just my experience, and that which has been described to me by others – but there may be kennels which operate a far more intimate ‘personal’ service.
I think it’s simply a personal choice – and I know what I choose for my dogs!